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Nurse’s Career Cut Off by Back Injury

I am very pleased to find your website and to not feel so alone at the same time.  But it is frightening to find out that hundreds of nurses are losing their health and career due to back injury every year for decades, and almost nothing is being done.
 
I am a registered nurse, also, and worked on a busy med/surg/ortho unit.  I was always careful lifting, found help, and gave 100% for my patient.  I injured my back at work with herniation of L4/L5 and never recovered from it since nearly five years ago.  My back injury was cumulative from lifting patients but the last event was my last day of work.
 
I had physical therapy, nerve blocks twice with no pain relief, and had back surgery after six months for decompression and fusion of L4/L5.  The day after surgery I was on a roller coaster of “10 plus” pain in my lower back and both lower extremities.  The pain was so intense, burning, razor sharp, that I couldn't move, was barely breathing, and had palpitations.  I took my meds and remained motionless, to not aggravate the pain further. 
 
After surgery I thought everything went well and my back is finally fixed.  But I was wrong!  Post-op complications caused permanent nerve damage and radiculopathy in both legs.  After a few months I couldn't tolerate any pain meds because of the side effects, leaving me to endure constant pain for a lifetime.
 
The physical disability led to termination of my nursing career, with financial hardship leading to loss of possessions, and disruption of family life, social isolation, chronic pain, anxiety and overwhelming depression.
 
Manually lifting patients is a very unsafe forced hazardous nursing practice which leaves nurses to engage an indifferent worker’s compensation system or disability system which terminates the goal of a life dream, being left helpless. Not to mention living in poverty and ashamed.  Gave 100%, RN, BSN


Injured at Work: Lost My Job, Lost My House

I read all the stories of nurses with work-related back injuries.  I feel so sad for them.  I am a registered nurse with over 30 years of experience.  I was injured at work also and never recovered from it. 

I was working in a stepdown unit when somebody called me.  As I was walking to answer, my foot got stuck in a telephone cord and I fell.  This telephone cord had been on the floor for two weeks.  The nurses requested it to be fixed many times but it was never fixed.  

One year after the fall I had to have knee surgery.  I lost my job, lost my house, and was placed on work restriction.  Nobody wanted to hire me with work restriction.  Finally I got a job with a home healthcare company. 

But the constant driving to patients’ homes made me worse.  My knees got weaker and I sustained a fall injuring my right shoulder.  I recently had shoulder surgery and feel the conclusion is very sad for NURSES.  Nobody cares, and once you are injured, nobody wants to hire you.  Thirty Year RN


Always Careful Lifting, Now a Paraplegic
by Annette Kocka, LPN

Prior to being injured I was a long-term care nurse (nursing home nurse) for 25 years. I always took pride in never getting injured as I was always very careful when lifting on the job. One evening while lifting a patient from their chair into bed I felt a pull in my back (not thinking much of it). Three days later I was unable to get out of bed and was in extreme pain. I was never able to return to work. I filed workers’ compensation and had to get a lawyer to force my employer to approve my workers’ comp claim.

I had my first epidural spinal injection in late December 2000 due to pain from the herniation of L4/L5. Then, when I woke up on New Year’s Day 2001, just clearing my throat sent me through the roof with pain. I fell to the floor in the kitchen, bent in half, unable to move, in excruciating pain. Two days later I had my first back surgery.

From 2001-2005, I had four lumbar surgeries and a neck fusion. Since then I have had two surgeries to implant devices for uncontrollable pain. One was a spinal cord stimulator, which was totally useless, and one was an intrathecal pain medication pump. It seemed the pump would be my saving grace although I fought getting it because I was so disappointed with my stimulator.

I seriously thought that once I had the pump implanted that those were the end of my worries. Boy was I wrong. With my discs degenerating, once again I was on a rollercoaster of pain, never enough time in between not-so-bad pain and really-bad-pain. My right thigh and right lower back pain. Razor sharp pain woke me. I moved every which way I could to try to get comfortable, but couldn’t, and seldom got three hours sleep. When the pain was a 10 plus, it was so intense that I couldn’t move and dared to breathe. I took my meds and just kept still, barely breathing, not moving even a little bit. My little wiener dog Ralph only left my side to pee and eat and then he's right next to me. He won’t let anyone near unless I say so. He’s so funny. He thinks he’s a German Sheppard or something!

I thought in 2005 that four back surgeries and one neck surgery in five years were enough, thinking all was finally done. Then, I couldn’t curl up the toes on my right foot, my right leg was numb, and I was having nerve-type pain in my groin area. I was so discouraged, I just wanted to cry. I was so down and depressed.

I attempted to be productive but that was just a joke. A snail could move faster than me (seriously). My right leg numb, barely bending at the knee, feeling like I am walking on a small ball. My gait slow and shaky, and at times my knee just buckles under me. My little dog tried to lick my leg and it felt like a razor blade against my skin which it never did before. I can’t wiggle or bend my toes. Plus I want to sleep with my hubby but there is no way I can lay flat, or even with a few pillows, because I need the support of my adjustable bed. Everything seems like a battle. I really do not feel very optimistic because no matter what I attempt to do it is a struggle. I can’t believe this is my life.

So, in 2010 I faced yet another spine surgery when I found that once again my discs had re-herniated. At this point I am willing to let them do surgery at anytime. I hate living like this because it is not living. It is suffering. It truly is the pain that stays.

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I don’t even want to tell my mother about another surgery because she doesn’t understand the chronic pain I have. I can hear it now, All those back surgeries and nothing seems to work. So I thought I would keep it to myself. People who have never had chronic conditions do not get it. It’s just a shame it’s my mother and not a friend who doesn’t get it.
Waiting for surgery, I did a lot of lying in bed. It was so lonely, sitting there in my adjustable bed, watching the world go by out my bedroom window. I was so exhausted. You try to fall asleep but you really don’t because the pain is always there. The medication only takes the edge off but doesn’t get rid of the pain. Being up at all aggravated my back to the point of no return. Thank God the doctor gave me enough and the right dosage of medication to somewhat control the pain.

I am really frightened about this surgery. I never was about the others I had. I think it's because I have no feeling at all in my right leg but the doctor assures me it will be better once he clips the disc off the nerve, as he put it.

After the simple laminectomy, my right thigh was still numb, with intense pain from the mid-thigh to groin area. But most upsetting was that I still did not have feeling from my knee down and it felt like I was dragging my right leg. It was so weird that I couldn’t curl up my toes and my foot just sat there. I seriously started to think that it would not come back. It was this way before surgery and I was afraid they had waited too long to do the surgery, and that there was permanent damage. Never thought in a million years that I would be in this position. Finally, after the laminectomy, my neurosurgeon of four plus years said he could no longer help me and suggested I go to The Cleveland Clinic. However, the first available appointment was five months away! After going to the nearest E.R., I was immediately sent to the clinic via ambulance.

After surgery, I still had a whole lot of pain, I was dragging my numb leg, and now a post-op infection developed in my spine which rendered my legs paralyzed. The neurosurgeon at the Cleveland Clinic performed extensive surgery, as my original neurosurgeon said he was unable to help me. Both the spinal cord stimulator and pain pump were removed as granulomas were found at the tip of the catheters. This time, the doctor at the Cleveland Clinic performed two fusions and yet two more laminectomies. But, my legs were still paralyzed from the infection, and from remaining granulomatous tissue which could not be removed from nerve tissue, and I was left a paraplegic despite eight weeks of IV Vancomycin via my PICC line.

I was in the hospital and rehab hospital for almost three months. I did receive the gift you sent from the hospital gift shop as well as the beautiful cards and the check that you sent. Thank you so very much! It's nice being home again but feels somewhat odd after being in the hospital for almost three months. Right now I am pretty much confined to a wheelchair and able to walk only short distances with assistance and with a walker. I will be going to outpatient physical therapy for some time and I get tired easily.

Thank you and everyone at WING USA for your thoughts and prayers. I know that God hears them, for without them I probably would not be here. Again, thank you and God bless all of you! All Those Back Surgeries, LPN

Annette Kocka, LPN
Ohio
Email: amkocka@hotmail.com


Four Level Fusion Ended Nursing Career

I still carry my RN title, even though I left nursing in 2001. I worked long-term care nursing for a facility, which proudly displayed its “lack of injury” record. As an RN working 3-11 p.m. three days a week, I was on that great shift where we were always understaffed. The day shift nurses always had more than enough people to care for the 32 residents of the facility, but quite frequently, it was just me and one CNA.

As I said, as an RN, I felt deeply responsible for the welfare of my residents but had little regard for the increasing back pain I felt. I had one herniated disc in 1993. I returned to a one-day-a-week schedule, and was promised a full staff and an LPN to pass meds. Quite the opposite greeted me. Still not a complete staff, and I was asked to stay and work overtime as a CNA, since people were either no call/no show, or weren't scheduled at all. I should have said no, but the residents were more important than my own health. A second ruptured disc was my demise, and then a four-level back fusion ended my hands-on nursing career.

I tried administrative nursing, but ended up being on call, and once again was called in to cover shifts, including all the lifting, when people were a no show. I finally had to give up the profession.

I found that when I filed workers’ compensation, it was to no avail. Even though it was proven that the company was negligent and held accountable, I got nothing. Since by that time I was only on the schedule one evening a week, they felt they owed me nothing. Emotionally, I gave up and let it go.

I left nursing altogether, and have been a school teacher since 2003. I had to pay for my Masters degree and start over. As a teacher, I don't lift, I don't get called in at 11:30 p.m. when people decide they don't want to work, and I don't have to do hospital evaluations to determine how much money a resident's condition will make for my facility (profit, profit profit!!!).

I was also informed that the health care system where I worked would never hire me again, even when I was still technically their employee.

As much as I love(d) nursing, I hope and pray I will never have to be a resident in a long-term care facility. The lack of care and compassion by some, who work in facilities, is enough to make one cry. Had to Give Up, RN


700 Pound Lesson

When my back got hurt, it was nearly a 700 pound man. His sides were all bruised from being against the bed rails of a bed made for 300 pound patients. This man was a total assist. He could do nothing for himself. He was incontinent of eight diarrheal stools that shift, and it took three of us to turn him over to clean. That’s 230 pounds for each of us at a time. He had three big bellies that lapped over. His middle belly weighed about 200 pounds, and we had to use a sheet on his middle belly, to pull it over by itself. I’ve learned my lesson. I’m...Not Going Back, RN


Days of Bedside Care are Over

Thank you for the work you are doing on this issue that is so often swept under the table in healthcare. This is a side of nursing I never would have seen if not first hand.

I am a Registered Nurse and hurt my back three years ago lifting a patient in a recliner on an Ortho/Neuro unit to reposition him. At the time I was only off for part of a day for X-rays and IM injections, was told it was a strain and was back to work with lifting restrictions and a prescription for PT.

After six months I had an MRI done and was told that I had disk degeneration and disk tears. Eventually I had a surgical procedure and have now been unemployed for the last year due to physical limitations and inability of employers to reasonably accommodate them. I never imagined being considered "disabled" at 27.

When I first started nursing my grandmother and a close friend both kept telling me to be careful of my back and I didn't think anything of it. I was young and naive. Now I am the one telling CNAs and other RNs to not stoop while they take my blood pressure and to not end up like me.

I am not ready to give up nursing even though my days of bedside care are over. I am looking into going back to school for my Masters Degree. I would enjoy teaching. Disabled at 27


Learning to Live with Pain, Limited Mobility, Chronic Money Problems

I was injured at work almost seven years ago. I am still going through financial difficulties. I can never return to nursing. I am left with a lot of nerve damage to my legs and continuous back pain.

I receive about $400 biweekly from worker's comp. This is no where near my pre-injury pay. Learning to live with pain and limited mobility, and chronic money problems, has been the worst of it all.

I did just get notification that I have a worker’s comp hearing scheduled. I was also told that they do not take into consideration that I worked two jobs until injured, along with other things. Hopefully finances will straighten out before I have to live without gas/electric service! Can Never Return to Nursing


Thousands Like Me

I read some of the other injured nurse stories. It was like opening a wound that never healed. I pray for them as I do for myself. It is a shame how the insurance companies treat injured workers. There aren't enough laws in place yet that will stop their corruption and abuse.

I thought I was alone many days with the lies and mistreatment from workers' comp doctors and case managers. But I see that there are thousands like me.

I still have not returned to nursing. Although, I'm better in some ways, I still hurt every day. The pain in my left buttocks never stops. Never the Same Again, RN


No Options for Moving 600 Pound Man

After many years in hospital and home health nursing, I have been teaching at the college. Then I got a wild hair and went back to work in the hospital, working ER, ICU, and the floor.

Well, the inevitable happened. A 500-600 pound man came into the hospital through the ER. I transferred him to his bed via a slide board and sheet, and then took care of him with one CNA on the floor. After a couple of hours, I called in another nurse, due to an MI diagnosis.

So, for 10 hours this guy, who weighs 500-600 pounds, had at least eight BM's, three total occupied bed changes, and several requests to pull him up in bed. This was done with three nursing staff, none weighing more than 150 pounds.


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Well, of course, by the time the shift was over, I could not move. I was so painful for the next five days that I could barely move. Now I'm moving around but I am afraid to return to the hospital because I don’t want to re-injure myself, and I don't want to be placed in this position again.

The hospital has no bariatric beds, no lifts to handle that kind of weight. There were no options to the three of us lifting and moving the 500-600 pound man over and over again. I can’t believe that we are expected to carry/assist with that much weight! Afraid to Return, RN


Life as You Knew It is Over

Once you injure your back, life as you knew it is over. There’s no such thing as “normal” again – ever. A back injury affects the type of vehicle you get, where you go, and how you get there. It affects everything. How you get up and down from the toilet. How you get in and out of bed. Everything.

Who’s going to put on your socks, and tie your shoes? You learn to hook your bra in front and turn it around, or wear a sports bra and step into it, but if you’re used to leaning over to put on your bra, forget it.

What you used to swish around and get done in the house in no time takes all day now. If I have any amount of dishes, it takes me half a day to do them. I do a few and then have to stop and rest my back, do a few more and stop again.

Who’s going to run the vacuum for you? That’s something I learned in PT how to do. Instead of bending forward and pushing and pulling the vacuum forward and back, you step into the vacuum cleaner. You stand up straight and push it, stand straight, take a step and push it again. You know how long that takes? All day!

You don’t reach up to change a light bulb. You don’t hang clothes on the line. It’s hard to hang clothes on the rod in the closet. Bend over to take something out of the dryer? Forget it! You have to call for help.

It’s no wonder people who have back injuries like that get severely depressed. No wonder at all. People who have never been through it don’t understand. Never “Normal” Again 3-1-09


Hurt Back? No Job Security!

“I see a lot of nursing students and tell them all: Get your master’s degree! You have no job security if you hurt your back! It’s funny that all of them, every single one, have the same response. They say they never thought about that before.

They don’t know that a back injury won’t affect just them, but will affect their family, their children, their job, everything about their life. I’m here to help them think about it, and they go away thinking about it. If I reach just one out of ten.” Trying to Reach Student Nurses 3-1-09


The Rest of My Life


I injured my back assisting a patient back to her bed from the bathroom.

Having had two back surgeries, continued constant pain, and loss of my chosen profession, I can understand your drive to protect nurses and other healthcare workers from needless and debilitating injury.

This condition appears to be "the rest of my life.” Constant Pain


Blown Disc Leads to Career Brick Walls

I blew out a disc a few months ago, after several previous milder lower back injuries over the years working as an RN. I am finding myself floating in a sea of vagueness, paperwork, resentment, disappointment, and career brick walls.

Physically, I am 95% better: but I cannot, and will not, go back to the bedside, which is a very big deal to me and my family – physically, emotionally, and financially. My first neurosurgeon wouldn’t put it into words – verbal or written – that bedside nursing would very possibly be detrimental to me again in the future and that I should find a light duty position – he said it was my decision. Thanks for going out on a limb. My respect for the health profession plummeted because of him, and an Occupational Health MD, and an OH Social Worker, who in retrospect CLEARLY were not on my side in this issue, although I thought they might be unbiased for some reason.

I have been humiliated by hospital HR staff, insurance case managers, and managed care clinic clerks. My realization that nurses are felt to be expendable was like a slap in the face. My young son asks me why I walk funny now. I cannot pick him up when he needs to be comforted. I am pseudo-disabled. I have been laughed at in public for my limp.

I was very pleased to find your website – it really does make me feel better to know I’m not alone, that these feelings are real and surmountable. In particular, I found a study of physical forces contributing to the injuries, showing the potential for damage quite clearly. My GP eagerly read it – and even asked me where he could purchase lift equipment for his staff.

My good friend was an Employee Health Nurse when her hospital initiated the patient lift system several years ago; without her guidance and support, I’d still be floundering. Her Occupational Health interest lies primarily in Safe Patient Transfers and Zero Lift laws… and so, by osmosis and, now, by personal experience, I have a much greater appreciation of the complexities and bureaucratic dead-ends that litter this landscape.

There aren’t any “We’ll Help You Solve Your Life-Altering Problem After You Have Dedicated So Much to Your Profession” hotlines. Ironically, my GP encouraged me not to consult an attorney several weeks into the injury; in retrospect, the sooner the better is what I would advise others – and, don’t waste your time telling your story to a lot of people: just get the best lawyer around – you’ll need the clout.

Things are looking up – thanks to my friend, your website work, a career coach, and me, pulling myself up by my bootstraps: not easy. Bootstraps, RN


One More Spinal Injury, One Less Nurse

I was working in a busy ER caring for a critical patient. I injured my back transferring the patient by myself from the CAT scan table to the gurney, to return to the Trauma Room. There was no one to call for help. Prior to going to CAT scan, they pulled the float nurse who was working with me to go help with another trauma patient.

Long story short, I injured my thoracic spine with a severe nerve injury from transferring that patient. I have been a nurse for ten years and just prior to my injury obtained my CEN. My physician now thinks I may never be able to return to bedside nursing, with ER my passion as an RN.

I have an Associate Degree in Nursing and finding a desk job in nursing is proving to be difficult. My finances are ruined (for the first time) thanks to battling through the Workers' Compensation Commission. I had no health insurance or workers' compensation benefits for a while. As of two months ago, I started receiving workers' compensation benefits.

My injury was over a year and a half ago but I continued to work nine more months until the pain become unbearable. The pain is better now. I would like to help advocate for other injured nurses. May Never be Able to Return


Lifted the Patient, Lost My Nursing Career

I am an LPN who got injured, severely, back in 1981. It ended my nursing career and ended any possibility to work at all. I have Degenerative Disc Disease now and just had my third surgery and second spinal fusion. I have been in pain since 1981. This last surgery has helped a great deal but I continue to be disabled as I still have major limitations which include no bending, lifting, or twisting.

As soon as the injury occurred, I knew my nursing career was over. I was working on a Rehabilitation Unit at the local teaching hospital. Though I tried to return to work six weeks later, I had to stop as I couldn't lift, nor could I walk, at the end of the last week I worked. I remained on Workers’ Compensation for 14 years, which was a battle in itself. I battle constantly for my benefits with Social Security as well.

Since I couldn’t go back to nursing, I tried switching to Respiratory Therapy but, after retraining for two years of school, and five months of work, I had my first spinal operation. It continued downhill from there. I went into a spiral of depression and suicidal feelings which landed me on the psychiatric unit many times. Luckily, after many years of therapy, I am able to somewhat deal with loss of my nursing career.

We didn't have much help the day I was injured. I was working with two new nurses that morning. They were supposed to help me with lifting the patient. He was very heavy, about 250 lbs, a new stroke patient just transferred to us on that Friday.

I had a transfer belt on him, gave him instructions as to how we were going to move him. As I did the count of three and stood him up, he apparently panicked and sat down, pulling me down abruptly onto him, rupturing my disc and doing muscle, nerve, and ligament damage which has never healed.

I miss nursing. It was a lifelong dream since I was a child. My mom was an RN and I was hoping to go on and get my RN degree but that injury ended that.

I wish I could have done something to help others from injuring their backs. I could have at least given back something to the career. I was too distraught about losing my career and the ability to function that I sank into the deep depression.

Thank you for your article in Advance for LPNs about your group and legislation on decreasing the number of back injuries in the nursing career. I'm glad someone is working to help the nursing career to prevent these life-altering injuries. Lost My Dream


Nurse Aide's Job Fine Before Injury

I’m a nurse aide and had a good job. Before I was hurt everything was fine with my job. But when I hurt my back, and filled out the work comp papers, when I came back to work, they started calling me into the office and writing me up for things they never questioned before.

I said, “I’ve been here five years and you never had a problem with me before. Why are you doing this to me?” And I wouldn’t sign off where they wrote me up.

They wanted to drive me out after I got injured, and tried to make me quit. But I didn’t have to quit, because they went out of business.” Tried to Drive Me Out


Extended “Vacation” Not Fun

I am an ICU nurse injured almost three years ago now. A patient was upset and was removing the monitoring equipment and climbing out of bed. I, being the good nurse, went to the patient’s bedside to convince her to stay in the bed and to put the monitoring equipment and oxygen back on.

Before I knew what happened, the patient grabbed my hand and made a “wishbone” out of it, laying my thumb onto my forearm. I filled out the first injury report and saw the nurse practitioner several days later. I was diagnosed with “thumb sprain,” was given a brace which took a week to get, and was told no restrictions. I made several visits to the NP, then the physiatrist. X-rays done after two months showed no fracture. I was told to keep working, just wear the splint. I was no better with cortisone injections and physical therapy.

When I was finally sent to the orthopaedist, MRI showed a tear to the other side of my wrist, and I was told this has to be an old injury by the orthopod. Yes, this MD is affiliated with the hospital where I was working. I left that job to become a traveling nurse, and was still told to wear the brace and keep working. A new MD said keep working and gave a new brace. I moved again. Another new doctor said I wasn’t in enough pain to warrant surgery and gave a new diagnosis of DeQuervain's syndrome. One and a half years later I had surgery and was much worse.

I moved again and a new doctor performed surgery six months later. Same thing, slightly better, then remained the same with pain, discomfort, and not able to use my hand for much. An elbow problem developed on my opposite arm after the first surgery. Workers’ comp says that’s too complicated and they can't be bothered with my other arm, that it’s not the side that was injured at first. The IME, “independent” medical examiner, was the rudest meanest doctor I have ever encountered in my 11 plus years of nursing.

I have been out of work for one year and three months now. No, my extended “vacation” has not been fun. Getting dressed is difficult at best, driving is bad. I fired one lawyer. Now I have a great one. But it has been a struggle getting back to work. Where do I work with limitations? Most of these jobs are taken by nurses with a bachelor’s degree who are not wanting to work at the bedside anymore. I am looking to obtain my BA to try for a management job. But who pays for my education? I'm still paying for my first nursing degree.

My temporary payments were shut off once, but my lawyer got them turned back on. I almost lost my vehicle. I have worked very hard for my nursing career, and am not impressed with this side of the medical world. Best of luck to injured health care workers. Out of Work and Unimpressed



Beyond Heavy-Duty Physical Labor

How wonderful to have found your site! Thank God you are doing this work. My story is similar to many others, but it is as follows:

I love being a nurse. It is who I am to my very core. However, I am now permanently disabled due to an on-the-job back injury. I worked for years as a CNA before becoming an RN, and have been an RN for about 8 years. I had two back surgeries, and was doing fabulously. I had zero pain, and was back to work without restrictions.

I was in the process of getting a patient back to bed, when I asked him to wait. This was a very large patient, who turned out was going through alcohol issues that were not being addressed. He did not wait, lurched forward, and tripped on the IV pole, landing on me with complete dead weight. His daughter was behind him, then pulling against us the opposite direction as I was trying to gently place him on the floor, yelling "We have to get him in the bed. We have to get him in the bed."

I called for help, stating a patient fall, and the help sent in was a 7-month pregnant aide, who I couldn't possibly have assist us very much, for fear of her injuring her unborn child. I immediately felt searing pain down both legs at the time of the accident. It turned out that I ruptured three discs.

I was told I needed surgery, but I postponed it for eight months, while taking a job in case management. I had my surgery in May of last year, and unfortunately ended up with severe complications of significant scarring of my L5-S1 nerve roots. This has left me with chronic pain and weakness in my legs, right worse than left. I went through the workers' comp process, and the insurance company was very good to me overall.

The thing that amazed me though, was the work requirements, which I never saw prior to starting working there. The hospital requires that nurses be able to lift 200 pounds, repeatedly from floor to chest, for a 12-hour shift. Additionally, you are required to be able to stand or sit for 90% of your shift, as in stand the entire time or sit the entire time. The requirements went on and on, and the physical therapist responsible for doing my evaluation for permanent restrictions was amazed and appalled. She said the requirements were worse than warehouse jobs she evaluated people for. It was beyond heavy-duty physical labor. Of course, had I known this was expected prior to accepting this job, I would never have taken it and risked my health and well-being.

In the end, a settlement was reached with the insurance company, so that I can return to school to retrain into another area of nursing, most likely teaching, as I am left with driving, sitting, lifting, standing, walking restrictions, and severe constant pain. The settlement doesn't come anywhere close to being what it honestly should, as my career and life have been destroyed, but due to government restrictions that would end up requiring massive amounts of additional paperwork and me giving them most of the money "in case" I end up on Medicare later, I chose to go the route that I did. But I am under the gun for finding other means of income, as I am a 35-year-old single mother of a 13-year-old.

I really and truly hope that laws are passed that will help prevent these things from happening. My doctors told me that a large part of why I ended up with the complications that I did, was from years of lifting patients and walking on concrete floors, the arthritis and degeneration in my back, which is on top of the severe scarring of the L5-S1 nerve roots, and now almost complete loss of discs in my lumbar spine. I have actually lost almost 3 inches of height from all of this. I am glad to find your organization, and plan to become active in my area with this! Career and Life Destroyed


$40,000 to Become an Invalid

Seven years after my work-related back injury, and nothing has been done to help prevent back injuries. The story is always the same.

A nurse injures her back, fights with her employer for her benefits and always loses, has horrific pain, depression, lives on pain pills, has surgery that never helps, gets shot up with steroids and spends a lot of time in bed and will never be able to work anywhere.

I was an LPN and I spent $40,000 to get a BSN only to become an invalid. The story will always be the same. I had lots of friends in the hospital, but nobody has called me in seven years. RN, BSN, Invalid, Alone


Two New Discs and No Job

 I am just back to work after having two discs replaced in my neck.  I had been promoted to a position where I only did CNA work when there were new patients to be oriented or checked out.  The doctor put a 30 pound maximum lifting requirement on me and yesterday my work sent me home.  Said they would check and see if there was any other job I might be able to do, but it was a no light duty facility. 
 
In my state, a bill about safe patient handling just died in committee but I have also been injured on the job by being knocked over, etc., and am going to ask a lawyer today what all this means.  I liked my benefits but now will have none.  Has anyone ever received compensation?  Ex-CNA from No Light Duty Facility
 



Injured?  Get a Lawyer!

I am not a nurse, but I work in the nursing field.  I am a CNA.  Just wanted to let everyone know that I sympathize with all of you who have injured your back on the job.  No one knows the type of hell you go through working in either a hospital or nursing home.  I know because seven months ago I had an L5-S1 fusion.

I went to the company doctor and, like most, he said it was a lumbar strain.  I finally got to see an orthopaedic surgeon who was
wonderful.  He was honest and told me that I would never be pain free. He said the surgery would help as far as me being able to move, but that it would only help the pain a small amount.

I returned to work two months ago.  The pain has increased since returning to work but I do have lifetime restrictions.  I am still on pain medication and muscle relaxers.  You have to stay on top of workers' comp or you will never get them to do anything.

The best thing I did was to get a lawyer.  I go next month for mediation.  The lawyer said more than likely they will offer me extra money to resign, but that I don't have to.  I can continue to keep my job and the company I work for cannot fire me for 400 weeks for retaliation.  So, if you have been injured at work PLEASE get a lawyer.  CNA with Spinal Fusion


Nurse Develops No Lift / No Spill Female Urinal

I hope you won't see this as advertising, it's more like complaining! After trying to get the bedpan manufacturers to reconsider their inefficient design of the "fracture pan" as used for female urination (the kind that make urine run up the back), I was informed that there is nothing wrong with the fracture pan!

So I made my own NO LIFT FEMALE URINAL BEDPAN.  The small oval-shaped pan does not require lifting or turning to place, and uses suction for drainage as urine flows into the pan, so there is no lifting and no spilling!  Every nurse who has seen it and used it has provided positive feedback.

My problem - hospitals and the health care industry don't seem to care.  Someone suggested if I devised the product to help men's penis's stay dry, it would sell like hotcakes.  Email: ekorjack@tampabay.rr.com.  Website: http://www.urinevac.com/.  
Lifted My Last Spilling Bedpan


Released to Lift Patients with Cervical Spine Injury

I have bilateral rotator cuff scarring with impingement and, worse than that, cervical reversal along with C3-4, C4-5, C5-6 narrowing of foramina, and C6-7 bulging disc impinging nerves.  I was to be treated for all of this, but the Workers' Comp Nurse Manager on my case coerced the doctor to only treat my shoulders after four weeks of
physical therapy.  And, since the change in medical care, and denying treatment of my neck, I am only getting my shoulders strengthened for two weeks.  I will then be released back to full duty, without
treatment for cervical spine injuries, and with no lifting restrictions.

I work in the ICU where our hospital still insists that we do manual patient lifting.  Our unit holds nine patients.  If we have all nine beds full, we are only allowed three nurses, no unit secretary many times, nor a CNA.  Our hospital also does the bariatric Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and the stomach bandings, which many times end up in the ICU on ventilators.

I do not have any other source of income.  I have had to use up all my vacation days to take days off when in severe pain and I also have had to work while in severe pain. They're trying to literally run me into the ground or into a wheelchair.

I feel that since the doctor let them bully her into giving me improper treatment, by treating my shoulders but not the more serious cervical spine injuries, she has no ethics or morals in making sure she gives her patients top quality care, as her message system states when you call her office.  The Workers' Comp Nurse is trying to get me back to work before I am ready so she can collect her bonus for getting me back to work early.  I'm in a lot of pain along with other difficulties like numbness in my arms and fingers that sometimes burns, shooting pains (like electricity) going down my arms and sometimes into some of my finger tips, plus a whole lot of other things associated.

Workers' comp laws are set up so that you should not have to retain a lawyer, but since Workers' Comp Insurance Adjusters play dirty by breaking the laws, and refuse to treat the injured worker with medical care they are entitled to, it leaves you no choice but to get a lawyer!  I've worked at this hospital for over 20 years and, trust me, there is no such thing as loyalty to the employee...the employer demands loyalty from you though!

Best wishes to all the sisters and brothers in nursing.  

9/16/07.
Being Run Into Ground or Wheelchair



  Went to Work Fine, Came Out Disabled


I have been a Medical/Surgical nurse for the past 16 years.  As a front-line nurse manager, my shifts lasted 12 to 16 hours a day.  One day I went to work and went into a room to help another staff member pull up a 400-pound lady, which we had done the previous two days without incidence.  We didn't know this lady started physical therapy and was tired, so when we pulled her up in bed we felt the "pain of a lifetime." 
 
The pain started in the middle T/4 to T/6 area.  I rested the last four hours of my shift and went home.  Overnight, I felt numbness down my left bicep that progressed to my left fingers.  I tried to work the next day but couldn't stand the pain, so I went to the ER.  A nurse practitioner evaluated me and had a trauma set of x-rays done.  All seemed to be normal and I was diagnosed with cervical pain and a thoracic strain. 
 
Two days later, I went to Occupational Health and was seen by a physician's assistant, even though I requested an MD or specialist due to the extreme muscle pain I had.  The PA stated my spine was now curved to the left and that she had remarkable outcomes with a chiropractor friend doing manipulation.  I stated I didn't have any experience with this type of injury and was concerned that I needed a neurosurgeon. The PA decided she was right and refused the specialist and made the chiropractor appointment for me.
 
I went to the chiropractor who did three adjustments which increased the pain I was having.  I reported my neck was starting to stick to the left and the PA had me do a lift test of 20 pounds overhead.  Needless to say, that was "the straw that broke my neck."  I severely deteriorated from that point and the PA didn't listen to me.  The PA finally gave in and sent me to a surgeon who "knew" I had a cervical disc issue and I had immediate neurosurgery on my spine the next day.
 
I would have never dreamed that one day I would go to work and face the possibility of never walking or feeling the ground below my feet again.  To this day, I cannot feel my hands or the lower one-half of my body and I catheterize myself six to eight times a day.  My career is over since I cannot lift more than 10 pounds.  You can go to all the lifting education that is offered, but we can't control all the variables of our patients.  Nursing Career is Over



Workers' Comp Said All in My Head

I dedicated my life to Med/Surg nursing and taking care of patients.  I lifted smart and always found help.  One evening I went in to lift a 400 pound lady with another nurse.  We had lifted her many times and she would push up with her feet.  This time she didn't help and both of us had strained trapezius muscles per the ER x-rays.

What no one knew is that my cervical spine had been injured and the radiologist forewent a CAT scan.  The workers' comp physician assistant sent me to a chiropractor for three weeks and then did a lift test of 20 pounds overhead which blew my C5-6 discs and pushed my spinal cord between the vertebrae.

For one week the workers' comp system told me the numbness below my waist and racing heart rate was all in my head.  I had a colleague and neurosurgeon order an MRI which revealed a herniated nucleus pulposus and hot cord that was definitely an impending paraplegia.  I was in surgery that day.  I beg for a law that makes it mandatory to investigate and rule out such devastating spinal cord injury.

If lifting 20 pounds at 20 inches away from the body gives 400 pounds of compressive force, pulling 400 pounds should be considered equal to a roll over trauma patient.

I hope this helps some nurse out in practice be aware of such devastating paralysis that may be in their future.  It ruins careers, families, and shortens your life.  Almost Got Paralyzed


 
Moved 900-Pound Patient as Instructed

 I was working in ICU.  My patient was given transfer orders to go to Telemetry.  Three nurses put my 900-pound patient into the bariatric wheelchair, and hung an oxygen tank on the back of the chair as there was no tank holder mounted on the chair.  They stuffed four hard charts into the back of the wheelchair pocket and intimidated me into moving the patient by myself to the Telemetry floor.  I had to force the wheelchair up into the elevator because the elevator would not line up flush with the floor. 
 
Prior to leaving ICU with the patient, I paged the Nursing Supervisor and stated that pushing a patient who weighed over 900 pounds was too much for one person.  I was told that since I was the agency nurse, I was to do as the Charge Nurse instructed me to do. 
 
I injured my back from moving that 900-pound patient and have been in constant pain for the past four years from that single move.  I initially stated I wouldn't move the patient without assistance, because of personal physical safety issues. 
 
My agency did not back me up and instructed me to "just do as I was told."  I definitely felt that this was a deliberate act of bullying at work because it took four nurses to bring this same patient back to the ICU five hours later.  Constant Pain, RN  



Work Comp Doctor Says “Lumbar Strain”

 I’m a nurse and have a work comp claim for a back injury at work.  The MRI report said a disc problem, but the work comp doctor wrote “lumbar strain.” 
 
They’re letting me work with 10 pounds lift restriction, but they could change their mind any time.  They seem to want to put you in a position where you’ll break again. 
 
The only way you can “win” is to get all broken up again, or decide to sell things off and live a different life style.
 
I got turned down at interviews so many times, that is when I got depressed. 
Rejected Nurse, RN    


Hospital Requires Lifting 75 Pounds

 
I have been a certified orthopaedic nurse for about 19 years and working in general med/surg the rest of my 30 years as a nurse. 
 
This past January I was having back pain which I thought was my extra long transverse process at L4 or L5 which rubs on my pelvis and occasionally causes pain.  I did not have any specific incident that started the pain.  I did another MRI and found that I have annular tears in two of my lumbar discs.  I am no longer allowed to lift more than 35 pounds ever. 
 
My hospital requires that nurses be able to lift 75 pounds which I think is excessive.  We do have lift equipment in the hospital but it is usually only used for bariatric patients.  It might take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to find all the pieces to get a patient lifted.  That's why it's only used for bariatric patients. 
 
Currently, I am working in so many departments in the hospital that it's hard to keep all my hats balanced.  I have not been working in my certified field however.  All this makes me sad, depressed, angry, some times all at the same time. 
 
I also worry about my colleagues who might have the same problem as me.  I have one who hurt her neck and has been off work for more than 8 months but is not on any workers' comp program.  No wonder there's a nursing shortage.  If we're not injured, we don't want to be and so leave the field.  Sad, Depressed, and Angry


Brain is Fine, Back is Not

 I'm an RN with eight herniated discs. I've been trying to wean myself off of pain meds and try to go back to work.  I am trying to get my nursing license in my new state.  I moved after the bank foreclosed and I lost my house.  After getting hurt, the worker's comp insurance company was fighting me and refused to pay.  Judge after judge found in my favor and ordered them to pay, but they kept appealing and appealing and I lost my house.  Nice, huh?
 
I'm going before the nursing board to try to get my nursing license in my new state.  They don't want to give it to me because my doctor told them I'm depressed (I'M NOT DEPRESSED!!) and now they think I've committed fraud on my application since I didn't mention having a mental disability, since the doctor said I'm depressed, but I'M NOT DEPRESSED. 
 
So, I'm going to fight for my life, and try to get licensed in my new state because I desperately want to try to go back to work, somehow, please God!!  I'm going stir crazy just sitting watching TV.  I can't walk or stand for more than five minutes or so.  But there's gotta be some kind of desk job I can do.  My brain is fine, it's my back that's not.  And, at 52, I feel like I'm just too young to give up on life because I can't walk or stand. 
 
The things we take for granted are mind-boggling, aren't they?  I never realized how important mobility was...  Too Young to Give Up 


Job Says Can’t Return with Lifting Limit
                                                                                     

I can't wait for workers' compensation and strangers to be out of my life.  I will be going to their doctor next Wednesday.  I have an under 20 lb lifting limit and other restrictions.  My job said I can't come back unless I can do 100%.  Their insurance company has tried every tactic to send me back to work despite my limitations.

I know I will always have pain but with God's help and new direction, I’ll be fine.  I’m doing exercises and stretches daily to be as flexible as I can.  I also have severe sciatic nerve damage and there are other things but I have to move on.

When I see their doctor on Wednesday I am going to ask for a mental health referral to further help me heal.  The embarrassment, humiliation, and stress was and is caused by my job and their insurance company.  I expect justice for that.  I know from what others have gone through that it is not always given.  

I told my husband I have one back and I don't intend on letting them break it by what they are trying to accomplish.  Embarrassed, Humiliated, and Stressed 


Claim Denied

 Returning to work after a two week vacation, I soon found that my facility was working the floor with three  LNA's versus previously four.  I found the lifting, repositioning, and transferring with the LNA's becoming very taxing, between trying to administer medications, change dressings, and assess residents.  
 
My right leg was becoming very painful.  Being an LPN, I waited until I could barely walk, going to the doctor two or three weeks later.  I was told it could be muscle strain in the calf, was given Vicodin, and was told to take Motrin.  I suffered another month and went to the ER.  With a B/P of 200/110 I was checked for a DVT which was negative. 
 
When they asked if I had ever had back pain, I said, "Just about always after work."  X-rays of my lower back were taken.  The doctor said it looks like a slipped disc.  I followed up with an orthopedic doctor the next week.  MRI showed spinal stenosis secondary to two disc protrusions. 
 
I notified my employer when the doctor took me out of work about two and a half months ago.  My employer does not feel my spine injury was caused from heavy lifting, pulling, bending and stress from work.  Claim denied!!  My employer asked me if I pick up my grandaughter.  Worker's compensation--DENIED.  I am now waiting for a hearing to go before the labor board.  All prayers will be greatly apprecited.  I am in horrible pain, but find much relief with a back brace.  LPN in Horrible Pain 


Old Nurses Never Die – They Just Lose Their Back Bone

 For as long as I can remember I was putting on bandaids, first on my dolls and on very patient pets.  By the age of 16, I was working as a nursing assistant.  My next step was nursing school, graduating, and going to work in ICU, specializing in coronary care.  I moved on to SICU at a major university hospital caring for solid organ transplant patients. 
 
My nightmare began when I had a patient who weighed over 500 lbs with complications from a gastric bypass.  She was not comfortable lying down or sitting up in a chair, but was able to transfer herself with some assistance.  So, I spent 10 hours of a 12-hour shift assisting this patient to transfer back and forth between bed to chair and back to bed again.  I finally got her settled into bed but she needed to be pulled up.  With the assistance of my aide, a lift sheet, and putting the bed into reverse Trendelenberg (head down position), I told the patient on the count of three to push herself up with her feet.  However, she was unable to push, and, with my attempt to pull her up the bed, I had sudden severe pain radiating down my buttocks and leg.  I have never done bedside care again.
 
Initially, my employer had me stuffing envelopes.  I thought I am an ICU nurse; there must be something else I can do besides stuff envelopes.  I became proactive in my own return to work.  I went to the nursing education department and offered to teach critical care courses and did that for several months.  Then I was asked to assist in developing a program for volunteer sitters to sit with patients at high risk for self injury.  I developed the plan, scheduled and trained over 100 volunteers, and the program was implemented.  I thought for sure I had secured a position for myself.  
 
Then, settlement time came.  We did settle, but part of the hospital’s settlement agreement was that I resign and I would not be allowed to work in that health care system ever again.  Good thing that my medical was open-ended.  I have now had three back surgeries, the last being an anterior posterior fusion in 2000.  I also have scoliosis. 
 
Life after surgery number three was better.  I could walk upright, no longer needed my cane, and was able to work as a telephone triage nurse, though I still require daily medication to keep at somewhat of a functioning level.  The biggest problem occurs when I get a flare-up of my symptoms and miss time from work.  Employers become frustrated because of the missed time.  Then of course comes the counseling.  I have had jobs tell me that they cannot accommodate my restrictions.  Now remember, I do telephone triage.  I think the phone does weigh less then 5 lbs.  Of course I am not eligible for disability due to my continuing to work while I am feeling well.  My income also puts me out of the running for assistance of any source. 
 
I do inform my employers of my restrictions before hire.  I give documentation of my medical concerns and, of course, they always say they understand, until, of course, the reality of my back problems set in.  I do not take my pain medication during the day as this would not be safe practice.  However, my pain level is always at a 7-8 level.  I started a new job doing telephone triage in an ob/gyn clinic and I love my new job.
 
However, the usual downward spiral seems to be occurring again.  I am now having symptoms of nerve root pressure again at the L3-L4 level just above my fusion.  Today I got the dreaded call, "Hello, this is the clinic manager.  Could you come down and meet with me and your manager?”  Three guesses what they wanted to talk about and the first two don't count.  The dreaded discussion regarding your attendance and missed time from work.  I am not eligible for time off under the Family Medical Leave Act until I have been there for more than one year, in the non-union clinic.  
 
I am again facing the fear of loss of employment, loss of income, fear of surgery, and loss of financial security.  Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated and hearing from those who have faced this same thing would help me get through this.  I have no other source of income and unfortunately have had to use any retirement savings to cover other times when I was out of work.  Old nurses never die. They just lose their back bone.  Frustrated Back-Injured Nurse


Want to Reach Out

I am sitting here debating whether or not to tell my story or words of encouragement.  I have read many of the other stories and cried.  I feel their pain and want to reach out. 
 
I noticed a lot of the stories had unremarkable MRI/CT scans and were diagnosed with lumbar/thoracic strains.  My story also started out that way.  I also had unbearable pain.  Lucky for me I had a physical therapist who understood chronic pain disease involving the fascia system.  I finally sought my second opinion and received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.  After a year of physical therapy, a job change, and good medications, I can say my symptoms are resolving. 
 
I am not here to suggest all of what I read is related to fibromyalgia, but myofascial pain and fibromyalgia are very similar.  There is an awesome web site www.fibrohugs.com.  Go under "links."  Scroll down to the "Top Ten Links."  Click on "CFS & FM Good Doctor List."  Scroll down and find your city or country.  This will bring you a list of doctors who deal with chronic myofascial pain.  Some of them have websites.  It is worth checking out.  Before my diagnosis, my pain was rated 7-8.  After my fibromyalgia diagnosis, and my life and medication changes, my pain has dropped to 0-5, more days with 0. 
 
My case is not all a bed of roses.  I, of course, am currently fighting with workmen’s comp.  They covered me for a year and are currently saying that fibromyalgia is not work-related, but my doctor says it is.  Workers’ comp benefits change from state to state.  Although lawyers are a pain in the ass, I am learning that they are somewhat useful for workers’ comp.  Hope This Helps 


Not What I Expected

 Life is about change, but this wasn't the change I was expecting so soon.  

At the time of my injury, I had been a critical care nurse for 17 years.  About every three years there would be the "minor" back strain event, with the necessary paperwork filed, and a day off to recuperate.  But on that fateful night came the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

That night, I transported an elderly patient for a chest x-ray who was about 4'10", around 250 lbs and, unknown to me, had a collapsible hip (replacement in the past).  When the radiology tech and I helped the patient to stand for the x-ray, the leg collapsed and the patient dropped like a rock.  She grabbed my shoulder on the way down and the rest is history.  My L5-S1 disc area suffered a severe weight bearing event and has never been the same. 

Post injury I followed all the rules: Employee Health, physical therapy, light duty for 14 months, two fill-in clinic positions, the whole State Workmans' Comp process with a final 31% permanent and stable injury, and, ultimately, medical separation from my particular nursing department.  Despite the fact that I was able to demonstrate an ability to work full-time for six months in an affiliated clinic, this was only a "temporary" position.  When the six months were over, and I had to vacate the position, I was not hired to any other job within the system, despite applying for 34 different jobs.  All of those jobs would have fit my lifting limitations as determined by Employee Health.

At one of the clinic positions, when I left secondary to back pain, the manager "by mistake" told Human Resources that I had quit!  So then my health benefits were terminated for about three months (unknown to me until my doctor sent me a bill!).  That only cost me $1,500 dollars out of pocket.  The Temporary Disability policy that I had paid into for 15 years never paid me a cent, because according to them, I was still capable of working.  They wouldn't recognize that I truly had lost my job, secondary to an injury. 

Now, I am technically "retired," receiving disability benefits, but they require proof of my disabled status every year, which is a pile of paperwork for me and my physician (who, fortunately is a great MD) and I always have to face the unknown "What will they say this year?"  I am fortunate that even if the disability is nixed, I will still receive a retirement check, but it's only about one third of the benefit I have now.

Secondly, although my career has taken a big hit, I'm still in fairly good physical condition, although when you can only tolerate lifting about 25 pounds, and certain common motions of the spine cause pain, then retirement at age 50, has some drawbacks.  I work about 10 hours a month with some community teaching and tutoring, but I've had to become the "house husband" and designated driver.  I've gone through two rounds of "re-education" but to me, my calling is to be a nurse.  I haven't given up applying for jobs, but nothing ever really comes of it.  I accept this change in life, but I didn't expect it so soon.  Called to be a Nurse
 



You Give So Much

I was a nurse for 19 years.  In the year 2000 I became permanently disabled due to an on-the-job injury.  After several back injuries, all it took was an assist, helping move a patient from a bed to a stretcher and my spinal column gave out like an accordion.  I broke seven discs in my back and five in my neck.  Four surgeries and four years later I am permanently disabled.  
 
My days are spent on so much pain medication that sometimes I don’t even know what day it is.  I will forever have to endure the mental and physical barriers that have been put before me, simply because the hospital I worked for was too concerned about the bottom dollar to hire proper help and buy the proper equipment.  I complained so many times about lack of lift equipment, until I was finally threatened with my job, which I ended up losing anyway.  
 
It is a shame that when you are really given a calling to this field of nursing, and you give so much, you never realize that you can lose so much, too.  I used proper body mechanics but a body is only capable of doing so much before it gives up.  Today, I spend my time watching nursing programs instead of being able to do what I loved the best.  Nurse
 


Like a Three Ring Circus

 I am an LPN who injured her back three months ago.  I tried several times to go back to work but was not able to finish my work schedule.  The first doctor I had thought I was mimicking symptoms of another nurse who was his patient and a friend of mine.  Imagine the possibility of two people in the same profession, doing the exact same work, and having similar symptoms.  It's almost preposterous.  This doctor would not write me off from work to get the proper therapy.  My back actually became much worse and hip involvement began.

I received a return-to-work offer from my employer by certified letter.  It would have been a lovely offer if I could have performed my tasks.  I live in another city and have worked under their traveler program, where they have paid my hotel and I have worked three 12-hour shifts on consecutive days and have then been home for four days.  On my four days off, I home-schooled my children. 
 
Now the problem I was going to have was that I would be spending three days in one city and four in another.  My scheduled work days were Mon, Tues, Wed and that meant that I could only have therapy at home on Thurs and Fri.  The work offer was to do three shifts from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm and they would make sure I was only on the floor for 10 hours because I would leave and go to therapy.  The kicker was that I was not allowed to take my pain medication for the time at work.  So, I would work 12 hours with no pain medicine and then have physical therapy on top of it.  I received the “offer” on Saturday, giving me two days to respond by phone, three days to return to work, and seven days to sign and return the letter. 

I called my work and explained that I needed more time to come back, that I had physical therapy and medical appointments that could not be canceled, and that it would be better for me to return to work the next week, depending on what the physicians had stated.  I hung up with my employer and immediately called an attorney who has worked hard for me so far. 

I still have not received any money from the Workman's Comp.  The first doctor diagnosed me with a lumbar strain/sprain but the MRI report stated that I had a bulging disc at L5/S1 with mild to moderate foraminal narrowing.  I was required to see a Workman's Comp doctor and he even stated that my radiculopathy was down to my right Achilles, that there was something wrong with my hip and I did not have the right diagnosis, and that I needed more studies, EMG and MRI. He also stated that I was not able to do regular or light duty work and that I was temporarily totally disabled at this time.

I had to see the Workman's Comp doctor before they would approve me a check.  The appointment was originally set weeks away.  I finally had to call my Senator’s office.  He has done more for me than most and got the appointment moved up. 
 
This has been a nightmare.  I was a very good nurse.  I had purpose.  My lawyer told me that I used to be an asset but was now just a liability to my work.  I never thought that until they sent in this letter to the Board of Workman’s Comp.  It was half true and half false, in their favor of course.  I had a physician tell me that burning pain going down my thigh was muscle damage and I asked him for an EMG and he told me, "Well, that's to test for nerve damage."  I sit and wonder often, I am a nurse and know what those symptoms are.  I wonder how many laypeople he told that to and they bought it.

My disc bulge was requested to be added to my Workman’s Comp claim but was denied by some doctor who has never met me.  Said that I was chronically obese and had a history of smoking in the past.  This Workman's Comp is like a three ring circus.  I have never seen such trickery.  Now Just a Liability
 



Changed Forever by Work Injury

 I suffered an injury at work that changed my life forever.  Other employees witnessed it.  I filled out the appropriate paperwork for Employee Health.  I went to ER immediately.  My life was a living hell after that. 
 
I had to be off for a while.  I had every test: x-rays, CT, two MRI's, two spinal injections, injections to my knees, and most recently Gel-Shots (Simvisk).  I was sent to the hospital’s insurance company and was tested.  They treated me and my family like criminals.  I have written reports from my doctor and from some of his associates.  I have three witnesses at the scene. 
 
During the 18 months after, I went through false write-ups, harassment, discrimination, and mental and emotional despair!!  They fired me once, and called a day or so later to say that I misunderstood, I was still an employee, someone had made a boo-boo that had to be corrected.  They finally fired me with a false borderline HIPPA violation! 
 
Now, they are fighting my unemployment after almost eight years of service.  I'm going bankrupt and my marriage is suffering.  I'm in a deep depression, and I hate the fact that people can get away with this!   Bankrupt, Suffering, and Depressed


Knee Injured, Look Elsewhere

 I have been a nurse for 22 years in med-surg/oncology.  Last year, attempts were being made to take a patient out of bed to a chair.  The patient weighed 350 lbs and the MD insisted she be out of bed.  I heard a yell for help, went into the room, and was first to get to her.  I attempted to support her knee from buckling, as she was barely able to stand, and suggested we lower her to the floor. 
 
The patient suddenly buckled and her knee rammed into my knee.  I have had much difficulty with walking for the last year and need surgery next month to determine the cause of the pain—MRI and x-rays are negative.  Another nurse also got hurt but did not report it. 
 
I have been given jobs cleaning out closets and frequent suggestions to possibly look elsewhere for work.  At the moment, there is no mention of being let go, but I know they do not know what to do with me. 
 
As your page stated, the brain can still work.  I am returning to school for a master's in education but that still does not solve the problem.  I keep waiting to be told that there is no use for me.  My back was not injured, but the knee is just as important with walking and weight bearing and is another injury we obtain in doing our hard work.  Brain Still Works


In Other Words, It Was All Our Fault 

I had my final back injury in 2001 after working in Critical Care for 13 plus years.  I was unaware that I was day-by-day experiencing what would finally become a permanent injury and disability.  All those little back strains that we thought were a part of being an active nurse.  When we did report an injury, immediately we were told that we just must not be lifting correctly, not using proper body mechanics.  In other words, it was all our fault. 
 
Then, after working an 8 or 12 hour shift, you were sent to ER to wait 6 to 8 hours before being seen, most times released to return to work the next day after getting 2 to 3 hours sleep.  Many injuries went unreported and I'm sure that has not changed even to this day.  
 
It makes me angry that my back problem could have been prevented, and even more so, that I am having to fight to prove my disability and what it is worth in dollar form.  I can't believe that California turned down a bill for "zero lifting" and that I didn't even know about it until now.  Kinda late for me but I hope that it helps other nurses. 
 
I am sad, depressed, and angry that I am in such chronic pain.  I have been stripped of my life, health, profession, and, most of all, my belief in others and in myself.  I have been a nurse for 30 plus years and it is extremely difficult to be on this side of the game.  It embarasses and angers me that I have to ask and fight to be compensated for my injury.  There is no adequate compensation for what you lose with a permanent injury.  So Sad in Southern California   


Cervical Disc Herniation Gave New Direction

 To all those nurses who have suffered from back injuries: There is some hope, although it may be too late for some of you. 
 
I am actually not a nurse but a physical therapist who sustained a cervical disc herniation which caused me to take a serious look at my ability to continue to lift patients.  After 20 years as a PT, I did not want to leave my profession.  I was fortunate to accept a position on our Injury Prevention Team which trains staff to lift properly using mechanical lifting devices.  Our facility has portable and ceiling mounted lifting equipment and is moving toward coverage in all primary nursing units as well as ancillary services. 
 
My current job is to teach all staff, not just nursing, how to prevent the injuries most of you share and educates staff on the impact of an injury.  I feel blessed to work for an organization that is looking to the future and is obviously ahead of the game in providing the equipment.  There are facilities like this out there.  Do your best to find one now.  A good place to start looking is the equipment companies like Liko and Guldmann where the vendors may be willing to tell you who is currently purchasing lifting equipment. 
 
Consider working with your facility to develop a no lifting policy.  Your education and skills as a healthcare professional can be put to good use in ways that will keep you employed and help to keep your friends and co-workers employed for years to come!  Although it may seem that all is grim, there is some light at the end of the tunnel and it takes all of us to make the difference.  Now on Injury Prevention Team  


 Nurse's Aide Plans Nursing School

I work as a nurse's aide in a small, 60 bed, facility.  We have power lifters, but some employees don't feel the need to use them.  I feel it is very, very important to use them, as I am going into nursing school.  However, our facility has ripped and worn lift seats, so we are basically required to manually lift. 
 
My neck has hurt for the past two weeks, and my upper and lower back have started to hurt.  Now, I have a doctor's appointment and am not very anxious to see what he has to say.  Lifting and Hurting


350 Pounds - Attempted to Support Her

 I have been a nurse for 22 years, in med-surg/oncology.  Last year a patient who weighed 350 lbs had doctor's orders to be out of bed.  During an attempt to take her out of bed to a chair, I heard a yell for help and went into the room, and was first to get to her.  I attempted to support her knee from buckling, as she was barely able to stand, and suggested we lower her to the floor.  The patient suddenly buckled and her knee rammed into my knee. 
 
I have had much difficulty with walking for the last year and need surgery next month to determine the cause of the pain.  MRI and x-rays are negative.  Another nurse also got hurt but did not report it. 
 
I have been given jobs to clean out closets, and frequent suggestions to possibly look elsewhere for work.  At the moment, there is no mention of being let go but I know they do not know what to do with me.  As your webpage stated, the brain can still work. 
 
I am returning to school for a master's in education but that still does not solve the problem.  I keep waiting to be told that there is no use for me.  My back was not injured, but the knee is just as important with walking and weight bearing and is another injury we obtain in doing our hard work.  Waiting To Be Told
 


Disposable ICU Nurse

 "After 20 years of ICU nursing experience, I sustained a back injury lifting a patient.  I was out of work on workers' comp three times in two years until my doctor finally gave me permanent lifting and work restrictions.  The hospital terminated me from my position in ICU and did not offer me any other full-time work. 
 
"I was very close to being vested but now I have lost all my retirement money.  They said unless I was unable to do any gainful occupation, that I was not considered totally disabled, which would have made me vested upon termination.  The problem is, because of my back injury, I can't earn anywhere near what I was earning before.  
 
"The loss of my career as an ICU nurse was quite devastating emotionally and financially.  I have gone into school nursing instead with a considerable pay cut.  Some school districts would not hire me because of my work restrictions."  Was Close to Being Vested  


Back at the Bedside

I am a nurse who has been working in critical care for 23 years and I have degenerative disc disease.  I was out of work for 6 weeks this summer with no pay.
 
Now I'm back at the bedside trying to get staff and management to implement the “50-50-50 rule” for 3 nurses lifting a 150-pound patient.  This never happens and my coworkers think I'm a pain.  My bosses are probably hoping I'll leave soon so they won't have to hear this anymore.  Trying to Get Help Lifting


Injured Lifting, Filed Claim, Got Fired 

I am amazed that the USA still treats nurses as manual lifts!!  I have been proposing mechanical lifts since 1985 when I should have left bedside nursing. 
 
I am now a grim statistic.  I injured my spine after lifting a client but I kept working.  I got hurt again in my shoulder and spine, filed a claim, and got fired.  I had shoulder surgery and went into case management.

I now have repetitive stress injury in my wrists, shoulder and spine.  Regretably, I went to hell and back and lost everything but my life.  Thank God I still have my most precious asset, life.  I am on permanent disability now, which I think was preventable.

I have survived and would like to know how to help in the war on "nurse terrorisism" called needless injuries.  Disabled Nurse Survivor


Tried to Catch Her

I was (no, dammit! AM) an ICU nurse. 
 
Over the last 25 years of bedside nursing, I had had numerous minor back injuries, never needing to take more than a week off work.  Then, last August, as I was trying to get a patient back into bed, she pitched forward.  To keep her from hitting the floor face-first, I tried to "catch" her.  
 
Instant agony!!  X-rays and MRI are all normal, but bending just the least bit forward kills me ~ and let's not even talk about lifting!  I did 6 months PT and lumbar injections, to no avail.  I cannot sit, stand, or walk for more than 15 minutes without pain.  California Workmen's Comp. declared me 30% disabled, and has written me off with a check for $400 every 2 weeks (and that will only continue for one year!). 
 
My hospital employee health nurse told me that, next time, I should just let the patient fall. (!!!) 
 
When I tried to apply for a case management job, they told me they were unable to train me since I had no experience in that field.  I never once had a call or note from management asking how I was doing, etc.  I was TOTALLY written off.  The H*** with them!  Written Off ICU Nurse


Didn't Ask for This

I am still fighting with workers' comp insurance.  I have had to pay out of my own pocket to see the orthopedic doctor.  He recommended that I tough out the pain for at least the next two, maybe three, years and go back to see him using any insurance that I may have at the time.  He said that at that time he will take the stem cells from my body and then inject them into my two damaged discs and try to repair them.  In the meantime, he has examined me and put into dictation that I do have permanent parital disability from this back injury.  He says that I am 30-40% disabled, but without a copy of my Physical Capacities Evaluation he couldn't say for sure.  So I have another appointment with him next month and I have given him a copy of my PCE from WC ins. so that he can look at it.  He said that he will help me as much as he can. 

In the meantime, my doctor through WC is a complete jerk.  He refuses to do anything for me because I am not physically fit and because I am too young in his opinion.  He says that when I am 28 or 30 that it would be more appropriate.  I told him, "So you want to wait until I want to have a baby in order to do anything?"  He just restates that there is nothing that he is able to do, but he wants me to continue to see my pain consultant doctor. 

The pain doctor says that I do need something done, preferably before I have children.  He is also the only doctor who has prescribed me medications.  Because of my injury, I have constant pain and daily lumbar muscle spasms that just won't go away.  WC, on the other hand, will not approve the medications anymore from the pain doctor because WC is closing my case and the pain doctor is not my attending physician. 

I have contacted my attending WC doctor several times, to have him fill out WC's palliative care forms correctly, and he still can't seem to do so correctly.  I have gone to the clinic and confronted him, which he didn't like; I guess that was a bad plan I had.  I asked him to refill my Ibuprofen and Flexeril prescriptions.  He says, "Well, I won't refill narcotics for you."  I informed him I HAVE NEVER TAKEN NARCOTICS FOR THIS SINCE I HAVE BEEN INJURED!!  He then refilled the Flexeril once and said I could take Ibuprofen over the counter.  I told him why should I pay for the medication when I didn't ask for this to happen to me in the first place.  He just shrugged his shoulders and walked off.  I asked to see if I can get a new doctor and was told that I couldn't because my case is closed and he has agreed to do my palliative care.  He really sucks as a doctor.  He really could care less at what happens to me.  My lawyer is still trying to find something that he can do to resolve this. 

It just seems that they want to drag this on to the point that you are so exhausted and you are no longer able to fight.  They offered me $12,000 for my back injury, and then they appealed the decision.  Personally, that does not pay for all of the pain and suffering, and humiliation, I have suffered from this.  My work has been horrible to me.  I finally gave my notice because I could no longer take the treatment from them. 

I wish there was something I could do about the fact that they had me working on the floor for the first two months that I was injured.  My lawyer says that it would be tough because I worked it.  I told him what was I supposed to do, when they threaten you with your job, and you're new to the game, and don't know how it works.  I am just so frustrated. 

Then my lawyer told me that as I get older, if my back gets worse, I will have to go through all of this again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I never did anything to deserve this.  - Young Disabled CNA


I Was Proud to be a Nurse

I, too, have a cumulative back injury.  I worked 12-hour nights on a busy med/surg unit.  We were always short-staffed and always made do, no matter what the patient acuity level was.  For nighttime admissions, we often had to transfer patients and belongings to another floor, pushing beds, etc.  We retrieved new beds from storage and cleaned and sanitized the rooms—at night, there are no cleaning or orderly personnel.  Funny how I didn't get paid, or the recognition, for being a nurse, orderly, room cleaner! 

I had many back aches from the job, from being tired and on my feet speed-walking for 12-hour shifts!  I never took a day out for this.  Advil helped a lot.  The sad thing about all this is, I was getting ready for work and reached up, standing on my toes, to close a top window.  And that's all it took—the lightening struck!  I was then on the floor with the most horrible pain, felt like lightening.  I did not go to work and haven't been back since.

Since this did not occur on the job, it does not qualify for workmen’s comp. The neurosurgeon (who has "seen what you nurses do") stated that my back was an ongoing thing and that the window was the breaking point.  Sure was!! 

I'm to have my second spinal surgery next week. I've been out of work for a year. This whole back problem has changed my life, my family, my finances, and my nursing career that I worked so hard for. The hospital I worked for shut me out the door. My manager, as well as my fellow peers, never called me, never sent a card, NOTHING!!  I was in my hospital for the first surgery and nobody came to see me. 

Working for them, I did overtime, changed hours, came in early and left late so many times and, now, since I can't "lift" and tow my weight, I'm out.  It's like being over-used, abused, and discarded.  Time and resources cannot be wasted on something (a nurse) that is not "100%."

Human resources would call on occasion to find out when I would be back. You have to be “100% with an MD note."  "Light duty" was not “available."  It was suggested several times that I get "another type of employment."  My neurosurgeon states that I won't ever go back to floor nursing, that I "have to find something else."  Great, but what?  There are no resources or advocates to help you with this.  I'm at odds to find another job with the same pay that I don't have to "lift" anything. I would love some suggestions regarding a new type of no-lift job for an injured nurse.   

I do not have a lawyer.  Never thought I could use one.  If it was me against the hospital, they would squish me like a bug!  Workman's Comp was not for me, only short-term and long-term insurance which is giving me a hard time. They told me to file for Social Security Disability and we all know how long that takes and most get refused.  Meanwhile, I've had to sell my $40,000 car because of payments.  Without more education and/or training (that I'll have to pay for), other medical field jobs are hard to come by and pay less than 1/2 my previous pay.

In nursing school, I think we spent more time on making a bed correctly than on "back" training.  Now, whenever I see someone not lifting properly (even at the grocery store) I tell them to "take care of your back" for they have no idea what an impact an injury can be.  

I was proud to be a nurse. Now this whole mess depresses me.  I would love some feedback from someone who has gone before me. I would love some type of help regarding getting a job, what options there are, etc.  I’m posting my story in case it might help somehow. - Find Something Else


Who Will Care for the Nurses?

"Please use my story anytime-maybe it will help someone..."

This is my story.  I’ve been a registered nurse for over 25 years holding certification in psychiatric and mental health nursing.  For the past several years, I worked night shift in an acute care facility with psychiatric and older adult patients.  There was usually one technician on each unit to assist with the patients.  We were extremely busy, often with crisis admissions at night, as this was the way to best access managed care by being an emergency admission at night.

My injury occurred while assisting the technician pull up an obese, agitated, Alzheimer bed patient, in order to give her medications.  The technician did not pull up the patient on the count of “three.”  I had reviewed with the technician the procedure of lifting on the count of three, but it appears there was some type of language miscommunication. 

During these times for cost containment, there was no orientation for nurses or technicians other than on the unit by the staff.  The old “see one, do one, teach one” served as orientation.  There were no lifts for patients and the bed was in one position because it was broken.

Initially, I was diagnosed with a thoracic-lumbar sprain/strain by the house physician and kept working while taking NSAID’s and using heat.  My prognosis was good.  After working for a week, I leaned over to change my infant’s diaper and “locked up.”  I went to the emergency room and received muscle relaxers.  I was then out of work for six months, during which I saw workman’s comp doctors and attended physical therapy.  I improved but never completely. 

I returned to work part-time when workman’s comp cut me off after an independent medical exam said I was cured.  I quickly decompensated and had to return to physical therapy and later switch to a nursing supervisor position as I could no longer lift, carry, or restrain patients.  I now was having nerve involvement.  This began the long battle with workman’s compensation.

After 8 years of part-time work, and struggles with physical therapy, I became totally disabled in March of 2002.  During these years I have had recurrent exacerbations, with diminished abilities after each.  My employer was willing to allow me to stay on as a part-time night supervisor during this time.  But, as the administration changed, and changes for the worse were made, I was unable to leave and seek employment elsewhere. 

No one can use a nurse unable to meet the job requirements of lifting, restraining, etc.  Supervision positions without lifting were scare as supervisors now had to work on the nursing units as well as act as supervisors.  Other typical positions for nurses with back injuries were also hard to come by.  Basically, any nurse position requires the ability to sit, stand, bend, lift, etc., none of which I can do without pain.

Presently, I am unable to lift five pounds and have daily pain.  I am limited in my life with my husband and children.  I have pain everyday, though it varies in intensity.  Such common things as brushing your teeth or your child’s hair can be extremely painful.  I have become dependent on others to tie my shoes, my nine-year-old shaves my legs, and my fifteen-year-old son has become my back.  He has become very independent in shopping, etc.  This also puts a strain on your marriage as even “relations” with your husband can be extremely painful afterwards and wish to be avoided. 

My family and I have been videotaped and accused of every trick in the book by workman’s comp lawyers.  Sometimes you feel useless.  But I keep going with the bare necessities as a type of physical therapy and I refuse to just lie around. 

This also puts a terrible strain on your finances.  It is amazing how all the insurance companies can’t wait to sign you up for coverage.  But, when the crisis hits, they try to reject you.  I keep being told that perseverance is the only way to have success.  But as you go bankrupt and fear losing your house, husband, and family, and see people on websites being sent money to get them out of bankruptcy, you wonder if there isn’t some sort of help available. 

I was a nurse and gave my all for my patients.  As nurses, we give up meals and bathroom breaks, do mandated overtime, and work conditions no other professional or union would tolerate – all  to give the best nursing care possible, no matter what the cutbacks, because we care as nurses.  But when you are injured, no one seems to care.  It is a system based on money, bottom line.  I guess, as a nurse who writes CAREplans, it is hard to accept when no one seems to care. 

Now, I have to pay a lawyer to continue to win my workman’s comp case.  I’ve applied for social security disability and was, as predicted, denied my first attempt. This is because “nothing is seen on the MRI/x-ray” but this is muscle with nerve impingement.  And, “everyone has degeneration of their spine with aging,” but mine is decades ahead of my chronological age in my injured areas.  So, now a lawyer must file an appeal and wait another year.  My employer’s long-term disability insurance company is dragging their feet, trying to deny me, or wait for financial ruin to set in and try to force you back to work. 

I have learned the hard way that nurses have to be prepared.  Don’t depend on your employer for your disability insurance.  Nurses must compare policies against each other and look for loopholes or reasons that the insurance will not pay.  There is also a place in need of donations to assist nurses (short term) in time of severe crisis.  Nurses House, a national fund for nurses in need since 1922, is located at www.nurseshouse.org.

The Nurses House budget is small and you must be living practically on the streets to be considered.  I hope I don’t have to go that far.  Please help publicize Nurses House as a worthwhile charity for nurses to donate money to help other nurses.  If, and when, I get back on my feet, I will make them my charity of choice.

Nurses must also work together to identify and develop a nursing careplan, so to speak, to address these issues.  These are not isolated incidents.  Nurses need access to disability insurance, lifting equipment, adequate training, adequate trained staffing, nurse-oriented lawyers, and referral sources.  I hope any of my experience can help someone else, and, if anyone can help me, before I lose everything, that would be nice, too. - Gave My All

“Who Will Care for the Nurses?”  Injured Nurse Story #3.  In William Charney and Anne Hudson (editors) Back Injury among Healthcare Workers: Causes, Solutions, and Impacts. CRC Press/Lewis Publishers.  Boca Raton, FL, 2003.  39-40.